Lara (Tatjana Trieb) is a normal child in an upper-middle-class German family. But her situation is hardly normal, since both her parents (Howie Seago and Emmanuelle Laborit) are deaf. Yet Lara adapts well, thanks to a very supportive aunt at odds with her brother, Lara's father. Recalling the young Nathalie Wood, Trieb is highly appealing as the little girl. Young Lara is also a rascal: Called upon to translate via sign language for her deaf parents, she often manipulates situations to her own advantage.

In its efforts to explore the meaning of sound and family relationships, Beyond Silence jumps to Lara as an older teen (Sylvie Testud) with a desire to study the clarinet in Berlin. Here, conflict grows, especially with the father, who doesn't understand his daughter's obsession with the instrument. Lara's father is further embittered after his wife has a fatal bike accident.

Lara runs off to Berlin, falls in love with the likeable Tom (Hansa Czypionka), a man who teaches the deaf, and auditions for music school. There's a touching reunion with her father, who appears at the audition to offer support.

Director Caroline Link's drama won't be an easy sell. But word of mouth might generate some excitement about the film's many poetic, sensuous and sincere qualities, all of which make Lara's plight-and certainly that of her parents-unexpectedly compelling. Link is a fine director who makes audiences believe.

--Doris Toumarkine